Why I Hate Homeschooling

Look.  Let’s be honest, I never wanted to homeschool.  I did it out of love because I didn’t want to subject the love of my life to any further stress or anxiety of being in the wrong placement in our inept school district.  I love this child dearly, deeply, with a love I have never known until he stirred in my tummy in 2009, But I HATE homeschooling.  Ok, hate is an awfully strong word.  (My mom always used to get mad when we used the word “hate.”) Maybe I don’t HATE hate it, but there are lots of things I don’t enjoy about homeschooling … and a handful of things I actually do enjoy about homeschooling. Maybe I just despise it, but I’m focusing on the things I hate right now.

REASONS WHY I HATE HOMESCHOOLING:

  1.  Not My Cup Of Tea: I’m not made for homeschooling (personality-wise.)  I’m too type-a, too stressed out, I’m not laid back enough.  I try, believe me, I try. I see my friends who homeschool — they are sooooo laid back, so easy-breezy, so ‘type-b’.  But me?  I’m a planner, and while I can be fun and say “let’s have a ditch day today” every once in a while, I’m constantly stressed out about what comes next. And I won’t let The Boy slack off more than once in a while because I know how important a routine is for him.  And if he thinks he can take a day off every Friday, he is expecting it every Friday!  So I try not to.  Weekends aren’t even fun for me.  By mid-day Sunday, I’m stressing out because I need a block of 3 hours to lesson plan for the following week.  A block of 3 hours ALONE.  The Husband considered this “me time.”  That makes me grind my teeth & want to give him a swift kick to the nuts.  Lesson planning is TIME CONSUMING and guess what I have very little of?  TIME!
  2. Time Consuming: Speaking of TIME & how little of it I have to prepare for what-comes-next, I now have pretty much ZERO “me time.”  (You should see my nails!  You should see my *once organized* closet, or any of the kitchen drawers!)  Why was my last blog post 9 months ago?  GUESS!  I was busy homeschooling!!  Who has time to blog at the end of the day.  I mean, homeschooling is like a full-time job on top of my already full-time job of being a stay-at-home-mom / boss-of-the-house!  If I could connect a wire from my brain to my laptop, I could blog around 11pm, because I have things to say, believe me … and they all come flooding into my head when it hits the pillow and I’m too exhausted to move, let alone blog!
  3. Not An Educator: What the hell am I doing?  I feel overwhelmed pretty much constantly because I have no clue what I’m doing.  I have a degree in Acting & Theatre Arts … and a second degree in English.  What don’t I have?  A Masters in Education.  So I struggle.  Seriously.  I have no clue as to what the hell I’m doing half the time. I mean, there’s no one place where you can go to find everything you need.  (Can someone please make this!?) I have to collect stuff from this book and that one, this website and that one, then I have to streamline all of the subjects so that it’s one cohesive over-arching theme … EVERY FREAKING WEEK!  And it has to be fun, interesting, engaging … and educational.  And really, some weeks I just can’t, I just don’t feel like doing it at all … It actually reminds me of my own plight with homework in high school, so I wing it, which I hate.  I’m not a wing-it kind of woman. Because when I wing it, I end up feeling like more of a failure.
  4. My Student Is An Aspie: The Boy, of course, isn’t a neuro-typical kid, so I can’t ever leave him to his own devices while we’re doing school – he needs constant behavior management & supervision.  I have stickers, mini cookies, jellybeans, fuzzies & owls.  He completes a small part of one task = cookie; completes more = cookie & sticker; completes a segment or a lesson = fuzzy & owl. Immediate rewards, long-term rewards, short-term rewards, yes, we have them all!!  Laptop, iPad, worksheets, white boards?  Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  Maybe if he were a neuro-typical child, it would be easier.  Maybe if I weren’t his mom it would be easier.  I don’t know.  He fights with me on every.little.thing, most of the time, and views himself as my “equal.”  He wants to call the shots, he wants to be the teacher.  And I do let him have a say about curriculum and schedule … to some extent.  But holy moly.  I feel like I’ve survived a battle most days.  Honestly, it’s exhausting.  I have to think at least 3 steps ahead of him all the time!  I prepare for every moment of our day, school and beyond. .sigh. Did I mention that it’s exhausting?
  5. Melt-downs:  Have I mentioned my kid has epic 45-minute, physical / verbal / emotional violent meltdowns?  Have I told you that these meltdowns are directed at me?  Have I explained that it’s mentally & physically exhausting to deal with a 5-year-old Aspie’s aggressive attack at 9:16 in the morning?  It’s intense.  It makes you want start chugging wine at 9:42am.  It makes you want to put his shoes & socks on, and drag him down to the shitty school I pulled him out of last December, and say “good luck, dude!  Be someone else’s problem!”  But you know I won’t do that because I love him too much, and I won’t ever give up on him.  But it isn’t always easy.

To be fair … I have to be fair because I was born on the cusp of Libra & fairness is a big deal to me.  I have to be fair, so I have to tell you that a) I’m totally bleeding right now & just in a bitchy, hormonal mood (but my reasons for hating homeschooling are valid!) and; b) there are some things I legitimately like about homeschooling, (which is what I focus on when I want to throw the towel, drive to a winery in Santa Barbara and just be done.)

OK, OK, REASONS I ACTUALLY ENJOY HOMESCHOOLING:

  1.  I Never Miss A Thing: I love that I get to have him here, around me, all of the time.  We (usually) have a lot of fun together – he is so damn smart, and so much fun. I love knowing what he is doing, what he is learning, who he is listening to … I love being the BOSS of what he is doing, learning and listening to!  He is no longer influenced by some unknown, happy-meal-loving, junk-food-eating, crap-manners kid with absolutely no personal hygiene.
  2. Our Day Is Our Own: There is no one lording over us with a schedule and a common core curriculum, or standardized tests, (which I do NOT believe in!)  Or homework, (which I also do not believe in … especially for a child his age.) We can go down rabbit holes of subjects that are of real interest … like, when I started teaching science this year, I opened the book and it started with earth science, which The Boy was like “meh.” Ok, clouds, yay.  But that wasn’t what he was really excited about.  He was really excited about sea animals.  He was totally into Octonauts at the beginning of the year, and so I said to myself, “hmm … let’s just close the book and make up our own curriculum for science.”  I printed out a bunch of blank “animal reports” and each week we picked a different sea animal to study & write a report about.  We went to the aquarium, we watched videos on youtube.  We went to the library & researched a different sea animal each week … He was so engaged in our science studies.  We did our own thing.  You can’t do that in any other school besides your own.
  3. Fundraisers:  THERE ARE NONE!  Enough said : )
  4. Parent-Teacher Conferences:  Oh, they happen … with me, my hubby and a glass of wine : )  Waaaay more fun than the alternative!
  5. Creativity & Playfulness:  I love that I’m able to foster a creative environment where we are playful & silly … where we use story-telling and silly voices to educate.  That is important to me & no way in the world would a typical school district create a classroom designed to stimulate the innate creativity in a child and really figure out how that child’s learning style can be utilized.

See … when I look at the (2nd) list above, I think – yeah, this is ok, i can do this homeschooling thing!  I get all pumped up.  Then Sunday comes and I start stressing about the week.  But then I take 3 hours and get ready.  Then Monday comes, and it’s a struggle to get him to engage and focus, and I think “this sucks.”  It’s like 6 of 1, half dozen of another.  It’s a conundrum.  I’m so torn.

And then I think about The Boy … and I think about what all of the professional psychologists have said to us … He should be in a small classroom environment with typical children (or children who are JUST like him.)  And I know how social he is … how much he loves to have friends and be around other kids.  I tried to find homeschooling co-ops, but there are no appropriate groups that are near us that would work for our schedule.

So I went to see a special education attorney (finally) and she thinks I have a case against the district & long story short, I’m suing the school district on behalf of The Boy to get the services I believe he deserves: A small classroom setting with typical peers & possibly a therapeutic companion for a (hopefully) short-term time period, to get adjusted.

In the meantime, we’re still homeschooling : ) and I’m still going back and forth with my love / hate relationship with homeschooling.  But I want you mamas (and dads ) to know that it is totally ok to not love homeschooling, to think you suck at it (you probably do not!) and to doubt your decisions.  Look … at the end of the day – our kids need US.  And they will learn the stuff they need to, but developing the “whole child” is more important than having them be able to recite facts back to you. Don’t stress out.  Try and have fun (I need to take my own advice!)  Just do the best you can because that’s really all you CAN do!

Each week I set a goal & when The Boy gets 20 fuzzies, he can pick from the grab bag!

Each week I set a goal & when The Boy gets 20 fuzzies, he can pick from the grab bag!

The fuzzies!

The fuzzies!

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Giving Up On The IEP & Putting Faith In Me

overcomeWell, we’ve been in school for almost 3 months now, and I’ve already had to call an IEP.  This is the wrong placement, but it’s the best one we can get right now, all things considered.  Not only is The Boy on the spectrum, (High-Functioning Autism / Aspergers,) but he’s also very intelligent & tests way above average, so that’s called a “Twice Exceptional” “2e” or “Twice Gifted” child.

He’s only 5, so he’s technically in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) because he has a late September birthday, and that’s the law here – kids have to be 5 by September 1st to enter Kindergarten no matter your intellectual ability.  He is currently placed in a Core Autism classroom with 10 boys (all boys) ranging in severity, (the majority are non-verbal, low-functioning kids.)  The ages of the kids range from 5, (The Boy is the youngest one in class,) to age 8.  TK – 2nd grade.  Wrong placement for him because of the severity of the behaviors in his class, but the best available option because he is able to work above his grade level with the 1st & 2nd graders.  In his current IEP, The Boy is supposed to push out to general-ed, but for what?  He would tear a “typical” “gen-ed classroom” apart in about 30 seconds if left to his own devices.  He’s way beyond “A makes the ‘aaaaahhh’ sound.”  He’s reading, spelling, doing math, learning geography, etc.

He needs a one-to-one aide, someone who can be with him in a typical (but advanced) classroom … not forever, but for the time being until he can learn to self-regulate.  He’s over-stimualated & easily influenced by these low-functioning kids.  He’s picking up behaviors and trying them on for size.  Behaviors that had taken a long time to eradicate are now resurfacing.  He needs to be around his more typical, higher-functioning, bright peers.  I have told the school district this for over a year now, and my assertions fall on deaf ears.  I know what they hear when I ask them for an aide, they hear the sound of money being pried out of their sweaty, bureaucratic hands.  It costs approximately $100,000 a year to have an aide for a child.  It’s no wonder they have denied me time and again.

This was my 4th IEP and I’m pretty much a pro at these now.  I read several very helpful, (and very dense,) special education books from “Wrights Law.” I have my notebooks all properly prepared, each paper at the ready in case I need to reference something.  I have my secret advisors within the district, who, (of course,) shall forever remain nameless.  I have my outline of what I’m going to discuss placed in front of me, I’m dressed professionally, and I am ready to confront them, even though “we’re all on the same team.”And, sorry, but I don’t buy that for a second.  Sure, they all say they have The Boy’s best interest at heart. And I believe that they want to believe that, but at the end of the day I’m not the person signing their paycheck.  Their loyalty lies with the school district.

We’re at an impasse here.  They basically told me that they don’t think he needs an aide, and to even get to the point where they will even consider an aide, they would have to do (another) Functional Behavior Assessment, (FBA.) Which is a time consuming process of collecting data on The Boy – what triggers behaviors, and why. So, let’s just assume they do this FBA & determine he IS eligible for an aide, the placement of an aide would not even happen until the end of this school year.  And that’s IF they decide he qualifies, which I’m here to tell you that will not ever happen without me taking them to due process.  They’re just stalling for time, trying to wear me down & honestly, I can’t deny that it’s working.  I’m tired of dealing with them!

See where I’m going with this?  How much longer do I give them to get it right?  How much longer does The Boy have to suffer from their lackadaisical, bureaucratic gridlock?  I don’t have the resources to fight them – we cannot really afford to hire a high-powered attorney & sue them, (even though I threaten that time and again.) And even if we did – who is to say that having an aide would even solve the problems he is facing?  He is riddled with anxiety that manifests itself in various ways – physical outbursts, nail-biting, aggression toward himself and others.

I can see the toll that daily “failures” are taking on The Boy.  His teacher uses a star-sheet for the day where the kids have to earn a certain number of stars for making safe choices, respecting others, participating in group activities, completing assignments, etc., and if they earn a specific number of stars, they are rewarded by being allowed to choose a treat from the treasure box.  After 60 days of school, he has had 8 treasure box days where he’s earned enough stars to be rewarded.  EIGHT.  Out of SIXTY.  Tell me that isn’t destroying his self-esteem.

I can’t fault him for not having good days – he doesn’t have the tools to be successful!  I mean, of course I will reprimand him for acting out physically toward his teachers or peers – I think he is smart enough to know how to control his impulsivity.  But how can I punish him when a big part of it isn’t his fault?  This is really wearing all of us down: The Boy, The Husband & Me.

I’ve been pondering homeschooling for a little while now – the past few months it’s been rolling around the old brain cage, as sort of a last resort option.  But I’ve been thinking about it more and more lately.  A few friends of mine home school their (typical) kids, but they seem much more cut out for the challenge – both are a lot more laid back than I am, and make it look easier than it probably is.

Well, as I was driving this weekend, (alone,) I was flipping through satellite radio, and on one of the channels, a woman was talking about homeschooling.  And, it just really struck me, that, with all the blood, tears and sweat I’ve put into fighting the school district to try and get The Boy the tools he needs to be successful in school, I’m still not even close to accomplishing this!  And all the time I spend fretting about Common Core & IEP’s, I could be teaching him myself instead of trying to find ways to convince the district to try my ideas.  steve_jobs_quote_Think_Different

Instead of fighting them, why not throw the towel in & flip the script?  Why not remove the obstacle (The School District) & empower myself to be in control of the way my child is educated?  Educated in my comfortable, loving, supportive home environment, where he could focus & receive 100% of my attention.  And, bonus: I could kick Common Core to the curb.  It’s not that I don’t have the fight left in me to battle the school district, but for what?  And for how long until I have to do it again?  It just struck me so deeply that I may be fighting the wrong battle, I may be spinning my wheels, I may be wasting my energy.  And that maybe homeschooling is something I need to seriously consider.

I sat on this idea for a day.  I didn’t tell anyone because I thought maybe it was a fleeting feeling, maybe it was a hormonal thing, maybe I was fired up by the talk radio segment I had heard.  I mean, I was on my period – maybe this wild hair would work its way back out of  me, but instead the thought of homeschooling kept gnawing at me.

Without alerting him to my objective, I started a casual conversation with The Boy about school.  Lately, he has been complaining that he doesn’t want to go … he doesn’t like that they do the same thing every day, he feels overwhelmed with all of the distractions in class, he wishes it was just him alone with me as his teacher.  I explained that I wasn’t his teacher, and he relented and said, then he would be better off alone with his 5 teachers.  So, wow, he said it, he wants to be homeschooled.  That was another a-ha moment.

Then, I went to The Husband.  He’s heard me talk about the possibility of homeschooling before, but between him and my mom, they pretty much dismissed it as a passing thought, brought about by my frustration with the school district.  They thoughtfully pointed out that homeschooling would be really, really tough & I would be exhausted by the end of the day, probably not up for the task … After all, dealing with a very willful Aspie is really hard to do all day.

The thought is actually frightening, I’ll be honest here.  I have no idea what I’m doing, true. And selfishly, where’s my “me time” going to go? I can kiss coffee with the girls good-bye.  Our entire lives will have to change – our routines, our priorities.  I’m petrified, nervous, overwhelmed … and excited.  I feel like this is the beginning of an amazing adventure & I can chart the course.  I feel like this could be really great.  Or be really awful.

outsidethbox

But, don’t I owe it to him to try a different approach?  Even if it is going to be challenging for me?  He is my only child & he deserves this.  I cannot think of anything more important than the well-being, overall health and education of my child. There is no job, no hobby, no community service that I can think of that inspires my passion more than my only little boy.

I’ve been reading some stories from parents who waited too long, and now in a crisis are forced to realize, all too late, that their child would be better off being educated at home.  I don’t want to wait until it becomes a tragedy.  I want to be that intelligent woman who sees the writing on the wall early enough on, and says, “let’s do this.”  If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work and we will know that we gave it our best effort.  But if I don’t try it, it will continue to gnaw away at me, this feeling that we can do better.  Maybe it won’t be forever, maybe it’s only for a little while, and maybe it won’t work.  But shouldn’t I at least try?

Courage

Friends, mommies, homeschoolers, teachers, anyone who wants to chime in, please do!  I’m looking for input from those of you in the trenches.  Give me a shout out!  I need some words of wisdom & inspiration 🙂

Love, The Fairly Good Mother

 

Getting Somewhere … I Hope!

You might remember from my post about being the Squeaky Wheel that I’m currently embroiled in a battle with LAUSD to get The Boy the support he needs in his preschool classroom.  Sadly, it seems as though only when I pull the bitch card & start to make threats, that’s when they begin to perk up and listen.

Let me just say that if the school district were a private sector business, they’d be out of business by now.  It took me 4 emails, (the last one threatening “due process”) to actually get this lady to respond to me.  When she did respond, she copied someone on the email, apparently the ONLY person who actually CAN help us.

Finally, I feel like I’ve gotten to the right person, but the question remains: how come it took me 12 emails, 6 phone calls, two threats & 5 months to get their attention & finally get to the ONLY person who seems to care!?!?  That’s totally unacceptable to me.  Upon further investigation, I found that I actually DO have a legal case against the school district because they failed to do something that was outlined in our IEP. But guess what?  Due process can cost up to $29,ooo.  Guess what else?  We don’t have that kind of money.

I looked into hiring an advocate, (basically someone who can guide me through the process,) $350- for a 1-hour consultation, (to just sit down and discuss the situation.)  Then a $900 retainer and we’d be billed at $150/hr against the retainer. Um, WOW.

So they get one last chance to rectify the situation.  The only reason I’m giving them one last chance is because the woman who can help seems like she genuinely cares & immediately took control of the situation.  If I cannot get this resolved with her by the end of this school year, well then I guess it looks like we’re going to have to plunk down $350 to talk to an advocate.  Sigh.  Wish me luck!!

Squeaky Wheel

I’m starting to get really annoyed with LAUSD (los angeles unified school district.) We were promised at The Boy’s IEP in late September that he would have 30 hours (at least) of one-on-one behaviorist services, and that if he needed more, they’d give us more. HE NEEDS MORE & I cannot get them to stay true to their word.

He started his PSM (Pre-School Mixed) class in the beginning of October.  The hours were only extended by 2 days.  Big deal. By the end of October, they were done with the one-on-one behaviorist shadowing him even though his behaviors had not improved.  I spoke with the Supervisor who put together his behavior plan and oversaw the behaviorist who worked directly with The Boy.  Over the month of November, I had about half a dozen telephone conversations with her, begging her to give us more time & that we were told that we would not be left high and dry by LAUSD during our IEP.  I told her that The Boy needed more hours, and she told me that he “has so many strengths and we don’t want to use the one-on-0ne behaviorist as a ‘crutch,'” and that he will “get the hang of managing on his own” and that “the teacher just needs to follow the plan we set up for him.”

After realizing that I would get no further with her, I went to the person ABOVE her.  I have been trying to get her engaged since early December; playing phone tag & listening to her promise that she would come and visit his class or “at the very least speak with his teacher.”  Well, I finally got ahold of her email address, (which I wanted to have in the beginning because I prefer a paper-trail, ) and shot off an email to her this week.  Well, lo and behold, I think I have her attention now.

Here’s MY email to her & below that is her response, (I omitted or changed the names to maintain & respect the privacy of all parties involved:)

Hi LAUSD PSM Specialist, 

I called your office number this morning and heard your voicemail message that you would be out of the office until Friday, so I wanted to write you an email.  

As you know, I first contacted you in December, and we spoke on Friday 12/7, you said that you would try to get over to the school to observe The Boy, but because the following week was the week before the winter break, things were hectic and you couldn’t make any promises, but at the very least, you’d get in touch with The Boy’s Teacher.  You and I spoke on the phone last week & you assured me that you would get in touch with her and also speak with Your Bosses. As of today, The Boy’s Teacher has not heard from you.  

It has now been over a month of me trying to get you engaged in my son’s situation, and I feel like I’m getting the run around.  I’m really becoming frustrated, PSM Director.  I was promised in the IEP that I would not be left out in the wind, so to speak, that if we needed more behaviorist one-on-one time, that we’d get it.  We need it.  The Boy needs the hours, he needs the one-on-one behaviorist to shadow him during his time in school.  I volunteer in his class on Tuesdays, so I see first hand what the situation is.  His teacher & the teacher’s aide are both wonderful, they follow the protocol that was set up by The Behaviorist & Her Supervisor, but it’s not enough.  The classroom aide ends up becoming The Boy’s one-on-one person.  Not only is that unfair to the other students, but she cannot devote her entire time to him, so when she has to tend to another student, The Boy will often act out & become unruly.  There are up to 16 students in that class – how in the world is The Aide expected to be able to focus her attention on The Boy one-on-one when 15 other kids need attention as well?  

When I expressed my concerns to The Behaviorist Supervisor in November, she told me that she didn’t want The Behaviorist time to “become a crutch,” but if he needs it, how is it a crutch? The Boy has many strengths, I do not doubt that.  He’s a smart, articulate, clever, funny little boy, but the undesirable behaviors, (his lack of focus, his inability to follow directions & listen to instructions, his physical outbursts that result in harming other children, spitting at them – which by the way is a totally new behavior,) are things that can be & NEED TO BE corrected now.  But it takes more than a mandate on a piece of paper.  It takes listening to me – his parent, his advocate – and believing me when I tell you that he needs help.  It takes supporting us in correcting these behaviors.  How can you support us?  By providing a one-on-one behaviorist until we all are in agreement, (the district, his teachers & my husband and I,)  that he can participate on his own in class without someone helping him every step of the way.  

I am open to discussing this further with you, but if you are too busy, or feel that you cannot help me, please let me know.  As I’ve stated above, it’s been over a month since I initiated contact with you & am still waiting for you to get engaged.  If you could please provide me with Your Boss’s contact number, perhaps speaking with her would better suit me & my son.  

Best, 
The Fairly Good Mother 

Hi The Fairly Good Mother…
I apologize for not being more responsive and available to you… I hear your frustration with this situation and agree you are your sons strongest/best advocate… I am a mother of 4 children whom have all had IEP’s and I truely hear you.  I am sorry that I was busy with many training’s for teachers when I returned from Winter break… and again I apologize for your frustration ….

I am including MY BOSS on this message.  I am also including a Behavior PKIT and is working with a student at The Boy’s School in the PSM in the afternoon. I will be asking for her to lend some interim support as well.  I will visit the classroom on Monday first thing…class begins at 8:45…I have also included my Supervisor and the Supervisor of Behavior Support to ensure we are able to move quickly in providing The Boy the proper support and to support the PSM program… 

Again I apologize and look forward to meeting The Boy and The Teacher on Monday 1/28…. 
Thanks

Well, freaking FINALLY!  Finally I have her attention & she copied her boss, as well as the Behaviorist Supervisor who told me about not wanting The Boy to use one-on-one Behaviorist time as a “crutch,” and several other people.  Her spelling and grammatical errors make me cringe, but I’ll overlook them as long as I am moving forward with this.

I am anxiously awaiting Monday!  I’ll let you know, dear reader, the outcome 🙂  And remember, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.